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Nexus 4 Tips and Tricks

Andrew Williams


Google Nexus 4 tips
Google Nexus 4 tips

The Google Nexus 4 was the most exciting phone of 2012. Great value, powerful and capable of doing just about everything the Galaxy S3 can, it’s a true Android winner.

Want to know how to get the most out of your Google Nexus 4? Read on.

Enabling Swype

For the fastest typing on a Google Nexus 4, enable gesture typing. This is often referred to a Swype typing, as Swype was the first keyboard that brought this sort of input to the public’s attention.

It lets you type by dragging a path over the letters in the word, rather than tapping on each one. You don’t need to be hugely accurate, either, as the keyboard is intelligent and can tell when you’ve mis-dragged a bit. To turn gesture tying on, go to Settings > Language & Input, then select the Settings button of the keyboard section and tick the gesture check box.

Manage your data usage

Android 4.2 has an integrated data counter that records how much mobile data you’ve used. You’ll find it in the Settings menu – called Data Usage. It's a graph that shows how much data you’ve used over time, and which apps are the most data-hungry. It lets you look back over a custom period - the last month, for example.

How to take a screenshot

Like most recent Android phones, the Nexus 4 lets you take screenshots easily – a feature missing from earlier Androids. Just press the volume down and power buttons at the same time to save an image of whatever is on-screen to the phone’s gallery.

Dealing with non-expandable memory

The Google Nexus 4 has non-expandable storage. With just 8GB and 16GB versions available, anyone wanting to use their phone as a media or music player will soon find the phone’s memory banks running low.

One easy way to compensate for this is to try out a music streaming service. The most popular of the lot is Spotify, which costs £10 a month. Pure Music is cheaper at £4.99, while Bloom.fm offers plans for as little as £1 a month – although the lower-cost ones aren’t “all you can eat” offerings.

For storage that doesn’t involve music, we advise checking out a cloud storage app. Some of the most popular are Dropbox, MediaFire and, of course, Google Drive.

Video is a little trickier than music, pictures or work files as it’s so data-heavy. Streaming from an app like Netflix or LoveFilm on a limited mobile data plan is not sensible. If you want to do so, stick to Wi-Fi – 3G won’t generally be snappy enough for solid performance anyway.

Another alternative for video is to encode your videos using a high-efficiency video codec like H.264 and avoid HD resolution. Also, there’s no point putting 1080p videos on the Nexus 4 as its screen resolution is 1,280 x 768 pixels.

The wonders of Photo Sphere

Photo Sphere is a feature of Android 4.2, and it takes panorama photography to another level. It’s a 360-degree panorama mode, taking a full view of your surroundings rather than just a narrow letterboxed version. To access the mode, press the mode selector on the bottom left of the camera app screen. Photo Sphere is the top option in the tray that pops-up. A Photo Sphere is made up of more than a dozen weaved-together photos,

Making decent Photo Sphere panoramas is tricky, though. What confuses the app the most is a scene with hugely varying light levels – for example, an indoors scene with bright light coming through Windows. The camera alters exposure to compensate for light levels, which can confuse the Nexus 4. We found that outdoors Photo Spheres work the best.

Getting the most out of Google Now

Google Now is a service that tries to pre-empt what you’re looking for on the web, before you’ve asked for it. To opt in for Google Now, update to the latest version of Google Search in the Google Play app store, open up the Google app and follow the on-screen instructions to sign up. Google Now

Google Now’s info is delivered in the form of cards that sit on the front page of the Google web search app. Default ones are things like the weather and nearby attractions and restaurants. However, as your web search behaviour reveals a personal profile, Google Now will start providing ones tailored for your needs.

Face Unlock – don’t rely on it

Face UnlockOne of the most alluring gadgety features of the Nexus 4’s Android 4.2 software is Face Unlock. This is a security measure that unlocks the phone by detecting your face using the front camera. To turn it on, head to the Settings menu and go to Personal > Security > Screen Lock and select Face Unlock. However, it’s not a security measure we recommend as it’s simply very flimsy. You could unlock the phone with a picture of your face, for example. And someone with similar facial architecture would be able to unlock the phone too.

Use Home screen apps to customise your interface

The Nexus 4 is a vanilla Android device, meaning it only features Google’s own apps fresh out of the box. If you get bored with its generic Android style, you can change the interface using a Home launcher app. This effectively replaces the interface of the phone. Top ones to try include Go Launcher EX, LauncherPro and Everything.me.

How to voice type and voice search

Google 4.2 features nifty voice recognition, and this can be used to dictate messages or emails, as well as to search the web. You’ll find this function within the virtual keyboard itself – the microphone icon on the bottom row of keys. The Nexus 4 uses Google’s online servers to transcribe what you say. Alternatively, you can download a voice recognition pack to let you use the feature offline. You’ll find this option in Settings > Language & Input > Voice Search – it’s the Download Offline Speech Recognition button.

How to root a Nexus 4

There are fewer reasons to root a Nexus 4 than most other Androids because as a Google device, it isn’t full of bloat. However, you can indeed root the device if you’re a tech tinkerer. Be aware that it means wiping your phone of all data.

Rooting gives you full, unrestrained access to the Nexus 4’s memory banks. As standard your access is slightly limited – in part to ensure you don’t destroy the phone.

Performing a root is a fairly involved process that we do not recommend for beginners. For a full step-by-step guide, check out this handy guide over at the XDA Developers Forums.

Essential apps

Play StoreApps are the lifeblood of any Android phone. And because the Nexus 4 is a vanilla Android device, you don’t get anything beyond the Google basics.

Apps we heartily recommend trying include:

Flipboard – A pretty and slick news aggregator app

MxPlayer – A third-party media player that can handle videos the Nexus 4 can’t on its own

Instagram – The hipster’s choice for photo sharing – and just about everyone else’s top choice too, bar Facebook

iPlayer Radio – A handy app that gives you quick access to the Beeb’s radio stations

Best accessories

SlimPort-to-HDMI cable – The microUSB port on the Nexus 4 is actually a SlimPort socket. This lets it act like an MHL port. Confused? It means with the right adapter you can output what’s on-screen to a telly. The adapter costs a shade under £25.

Wireless charger – The most eye-catching Google Nexus 4 accessory is the wireless induction charger. It’s not available in the UK, though, so you’ll have to import one. Its performance has been criticised in the states too. However – still cool.


April 24, 2013, 10:21 am

Is it worth me buying an N4 or waiting for the N5 or upgrade of the Nexus? Trying to sort a phone for the next 2 or 3 years.


April 24, 2013, 10:32 am

I get where companies (especially Google) are going with pushing us all into the cloud with small, non-expandable internal memory on mobile devices, and the Chromebook. I get it. Thing is, I don't think they do. Nobody I know can afford an unlimited data plan on their phones. Any those who can afford it simply refuse to pay that much for thier phones. I can't say I blame them. We don't all have wifi everywhere we go, some of us travel (planes and trains and even cars make data signals unreliable). Some of us go into the outernet (it's that thing out your window) and there ain't no data there either.
Thing is, I'd love it if this were realistically I dependable platform, however the infrastructure and the pricing simply isn't there to make these things attractive to me.

Thought I would tell you my thoughts.
Also; how much price difference does 8GB/16GB/32GB/64GB make to a phone manufacturer these days? Why don't they just put more storage on-board? Anyone have any idea?

Paul Elliott

April 24, 2013, 11:13 am

The 'Maxell Air Voltage Wireless Qi Charger' is available in the UK and works perfectly for wireless charging.


April 24, 2013, 11:47 am

Thanks for the tip, Paul. We'll check it out.

Gilberto Contreras

April 24, 2013, 7:10 pm

Get the N4. You'll get the key lime pie update when it comes out and I suspect that eventually they'll turn back on the LTE. The N5 could be around the corner but it may be at least a year from today when you could get your hands on one. N4 was tough to get out the gate

Michael P

April 24, 2013, 7:40 pm

mystery...why do reviewers always mention 'screenshot', who on god's or a big bang's earth would want to save a picture of their homescreen, am I missing something?

Michael P

April 24, 2013, 7:48 pm

Ther are plent of cheaper data plans, even t mobile's just pushes you down to 3g which handles data, cloud perfectly .the real question, why would anyone use at and T or veris=zon,,,do the math...


April 25, 2013, 10:22 am

Is it just me, or does this make absolutely no sense? What about if you go somewhere (like planes or trains, or in your car) where streaming music or accessing your data simply isn't a viable option in the next decade? What then?
Oh, and maths has an 's'.


April 25, 2013, 2:49 pm

useful features for testers


April 26, 2013, 6:28 pm

He's american, hence Verizon. You can get a yport adapter and then a usb hard drive that is portable. The y cable will provide the power, and then you can carry that extra storage with you.

Ryan E Howard

April 27, 2013, 11:43 am

The point is to buy the phone from Google without a contract and get like a giffgaff sim card and the internet is unlimited.

Ryan E Howard

April 27, 2013, 11:44 am

Most planes have WiFi these days, and its coming to most trains, even the underground has WiFi now.

Joe Haynie

May 4, 2013, 11:04 pm

It's not merely for your homescreen. Rather, for whatever is currently on the screen.

Joe Varghese John

May 14, 2013, 9:14 am

Face Unlock – don’t rely on it!!!
You can enable "Liveness Check" in screen security to prevent a photo being used to unlock


May 30, 2013, 6:09 pm

Thanks for giving us great tricks


July 17, 2013, 9:42 am

an 's'


July 18, 2013, 8:02 am

Fair one - I deserved that!


Julia Jackson

September 9, 2013, 10:25 am

useful tips and tricks about google nexus 4


hope this will help you....


January 8, 2014, 9:00 am

Help please. My friend's company has an app on their landline system. When she calls me, it says it's her company name and a nice picture of their latest product promotion.
Can I make on my nexus 4 my picture come up the mobiles that I call?
That would be nice… Any help would be appreciated. I am not a techie but love my Nexus 4. I ditched my iPhone for it last year and will never go back. :-)

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